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Huge donation helps Richmond County schools fix digital divide

Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 6:31 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Good news for five Richmond County middle schools that were chosen to be part of Verizon’s Innovative Learning Program.

Every student and teacher at A.R. Johnson Magnet school, Hephzibah Middle School, Langford Middle School, Spirit Creek Middle School, and Tutt Middle School will get free Chromebooks and up to four years of data.

The school district says they sent in applications for all their middle schools, and those five were chosen.

School leaders have been trying to bridge the digital divide in the county for years. So, they say this is a big step in the right direction.

Long before students turned their bedrooms into their classrooms, inequality in technology among Richmond County students was a major issue.

“We have to remediate students that come back because they didn’t have the technology access to be able to continue their learning,” Dr. Kierstin Johnson said.

Dr. Johnson, principal for Spirit Creek Middle School says 50 percent of her students don’t have computer or technology access.

This means they can’t do the extra studying and online work that students with internet access can. So, this program, she says, will help tremendously.

“It allows equity. It allows all of my teachers to know that when they provide assignments, that those students will be able to do it without having to come to school early or staying late,” Johnson said.

The district says Verizon will give Chromebooks to nearly 3,000 students and 175 teachers.

It will also place a full-time technological support employee in each of those five schools.

“Allowing that person to be full-time in the building working with teachers to figure out ways that they can not only use the technology to access the internet but to really engage students in learning,” Johnson said.

And the district was already working to get laptops for every student.

$30 million in ESPLOST money was already set towards buying laptops for every teacher and student in the county.

The district says this partnership will help them reach that goal faster.

“This is at no cost to the school district,” James Lunsford, technology director with the Richmond County School System explained. “It’s more of a donation endowment.”

All to help students succeed in an age when everything is pretty much online.

The district says the teachers at those schools will get their devices this school year, and the students will get theirs in August.

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